There is more than one way to interpret the expression “off the wall” and the Waverly Street Gallery’s exhibit “Off the Wall” shows that sculpture has many sides. The Maryland Federation of Art’s (MFA) second annual 3-D show is on view through Aug. 5 at the Bethesda gallery.
Dr. Oliver Shell of the Baltimore Museum of Art selected 40 pieces of work from the 169 works submitted. “I did enjoy jurying it, all those wonderful items,” he said. “You definitely have favorites right away and least favorites, and you start ranking them.”
To create an eclectic show, Shell assessed works of fine art and those that fall more into the craft category; each genre requires a different skillset of the artist. “It’s sort of a battle between the beautiful and the humorous,” he said. “You are comparing apples to oranges.”
Works on view range from the beautiful and delicate–like “Replete” a small work of porcelain, a collection of shapes that look like coral or tiny calla lilies by Elizabeth Anne Kendall of Deale, Maryland, to pieces made from reclaimed materials. In that category is “John, Dear,” that Vienne Rea of Baltimore created out of rope and salvaged tractor blades.
Both pieces won Juror’s Awards, along with Joanna Lynn Salerno’s earthenware and acrylic paint “High Anxiety,” Katherine G. Thomas’ glass “Streambed” and Cindy Winnick’s plaster and fabric “Steppin’ Out.”
The show, said Joanne Vaughn, MFA’s executive director, displays not only grace and beauty and but also, ingenuity. “I think that is what the juror was looking for,” she said. “The cleverness, the thought behind the process.”
MFA is a nonprofit visual arts organization based in Annapolis. Its mission, according to its website, “is to exhibit current art by living artists.” In 2016, the group received a grant to show at a pop-up space in Annapolis and opted for a sculpture exhibit; that was the first “Off the Wall.” “It was so successful, we decided to do it again this year,” said Kristin McCurdy, MFA communications and marketing director.
For this year’s show, Waverly Street Gallery invited the group to use its space. “There is a lot of natural light and a good spotlight system,” said gallery member Sarah Hood Solomon.
At the opening, Katherine G. Thomas, of Washington, D.C., who has three pieces in the show and won a Juror’s Award for her glass work, “Streambed,” said she was delightfully surprised by the award. She has been working in glass for about eight years. “The glass people are amazing,” Shell observed.
At the other end of the spectrum is Joanna Lynn Salerno’s “High Anxiety,” made of earthenware and acrylic paint. The sculpture, at first look, is a giant eyeball composed of lots of other eyeballs, but a careful examination reveals a human figure, holding all those eyeballs, clinging to and balancing them. It is “absolutely fabulous,” Shell said, acknowledging, “It does make you sort of anxious.” Salerno confirmed that the piece was created during a time of great stress.
Shell’s one-word summary of “Off the Wall” is “fun.” “It is fun as an exercise because you are looking at things with no preconceived ideas,” he said. “You have to come up with criteria in your own mind.”
“Off the Wall” runs through Saturday, Aug. 5, at the Waverly Street Gallery, 4600 East-West Highway, #102, Bethesda. Hours are from 1 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call 301-951-9441 or visit http://waverlystreetgallery.com.